Saturday, January 19, 2008

Illiterate Iraqi Men in Ballard

I just got back from a work out. While working out, the following conversation occurred between the following people:
  • Large white rather awkward 50 year old man w/ beard, I'll refer to him as LWAYOMB for short.
  • Typical white normal middle aged Seattle-ite woman, I'll refer to her as SeattleWoman
  • And me.
I'm working out on a machine, about 10 feet away LWAYOMB says to SeattleWoman, "excuse me, excuse me, miss, uh hum, do you know if we are supposed to clean up after we use the machines. I mean, uh hum, today is my first day and I, uh hum, am not sure."

SeattleWoman: "well yes technically you are, but I'd say about 40% of the people don't and about 60% do."

LWAYOMB: "oh, uh hum, yes, I see. Well you know, I see that man over there, uh hum, he didn't clean off his machines, and, uh hum, perhaps he can't read English."

SeattleWoman: "well you know some people do, and some don't."

LWAYOMB: "yes well he looks like an Iraqi, so you know, perhaps he can't read. You know, these Iraqi's don't read English very well."

SeattleWoman kind of drifts away passively.

So at this point I'm really annoyed. I walk over and say to LWAYOMB, "Sir, I speak English just fine. You really shouldn't assume that a man merely due to his skin color is illiterate. Also, I'm not from Iraq, but if I were, why would that matter? You could simply have asked me to wipe off the machines instead of proceeding with this elaborate passive aggressive dialog."

LWAYOMB huffs and says, "oh well yeah, uh hum, I've tried that before, uh hum and it didn't get me anywhere." LWAYOMB getting red and flustered, repeats over and over again, "can you read, I mean, can you read. Can't you read?"

I shake my head and go back to working out. Later, after LWAYOMB leaves, SeattleWoman says to me, "I'm really sorry about that. I thought he was asking a straightforward question, and I was trying to say, yeah some people do wipe down the machines, some don't, it's not really a big deal either way. But after he started on the racist angle, I was shocked and sort of speechless."

I said, "yeah that was pretty bizarre. I've spent my entire life in the states, and I must say, that was the first clearly racist incident I've ever encountered directed at me. And of all places, this is Seattle, where on earth is this guy from?"

So, to all my friends over the years who have argued to prove the point to me that racism is alive and well even in lefty Seattle, perhaps you are right. But I must say, while its certainly annoying, this man is clearly in the minority, and his behavior is not socially acceptable. Afterward, when I was checking out, I chatted w/ the receptionist about the incident. Coincidentally, the man walked by at the same time. She was apologetic, clearly bothered, and said she'd chat w/ him.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's really inexcusable and rude on his part. But why did you not wipe the machine in the 1st place?

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